Nelson Swag Leg Desk – Style+Functionality Wrapped in One

Nelson Swag Leg Desk – Style+Functionality Wrapped in One

It isn’t very often that you will find furniture that will look just as good in a private home as it does in the Museum of Modern Art. The Nelson swag leg desk is just one such item you can buy for your home office, kitchen or family room (which is a term coined by George Nelson). The price may be a bit steep for the average furniture shopper, but if you have the means and you desire an iconic piece of American furniture design it may be well worth it.

nelson swag leg desk studyJust Who is George Nelson?

To whet your appetite, let’s get a bit of back ground information about George Nelson so you can have a better understanding of why he is regarded so well among designers.

George Nelson (1908-1986) was born in Hartford, Connecticut. Upon graduation for high school he went on to attend Yale University. He didn’t attend with architecture in mind, but when he happened upon the School of Architecture building when he ducked out of the rain, he happened upon his future career. He graduated in 1928 with a degree in Architecture, and then returned to Yale to complete a degree in Fine Arts, which he earned in 1931.

For many of his career years, Nelson worked as an editor for design and architecture magazines, where he would meet future collaborators such as the Eames, Noyes and Ford. He often wrote about his point of view regarding design, defending his belief regarding modernism in that it should be as simple as that of nature, which to him was already perfect in its simplicity.

The Rise of His Design’s Popularity

His work as a designer finally gained the awareness of the public with his concept of the Tomorrow House, where he first coined the terms “family room” and “storage wall”. The storage wall was more of a fluke than an intentional creation. Under pressure to come up with a concept, he voiced the question, “What’s inside the wall?” Thus was born the idea of using so-called empty space for storage. The family room is his concept for a room for family and friends to gather for casual interaction or to simply be in the same room while reading or playing games, unlike the formal rooms for guests to visit or the den that was used for an office.nelson swag leg desk

His relationship with Eames, Noyes, and Ford fostered his interest in creating designs for the home that was modern and contemporary rather than ornamental and old-fashioned. As a result he designed many of the furniture concepts that come to mind when thinking of styles of the 40s, 50s and early 60s. Chairs were minimally and ergonomically designed. Tables and desks were created to use a minimum of space, yet provide all the necessary spaces a user would need. The wall clocks we think of today as being retro now, were futuristic to the designers then.

An Innovation in Minimalist Design

One example of Nelson’s minimalist design concept is the Nelson swag leg desk. In the era before modernism, desks tended to be large, with drawers, compartments, and a cubby area for the legs. Even smaller secretary desks tended to have ornamental knobs for drawers and a fold out writing area.

Nelson’s swag desk reduced the excess and created spaces that were useful. The height, depth and width of the desk allowed it to be useful without being overbearing to a room so that it could be used in a variety of locations within the home: kitchen, office, and family room.

Rather than simple wood or metal that was all one color, he created different colored cubby holes of different sizes to store items. The top surface is white laminate. Two small drawers are located under the writing area to store writing implements.

Cost effectiveness in manufacturing was another factor in creating the Nelson swag leg desk, so instead of expensive walnut, veneer was used. Although hardwood is used for the cubby holes, which are then painted orange, blue, and chartreuse. All parts of the desk can be manufactured for mass production at a lower cost than other desks that required a skilled craftsman to build it. In fact, when this desk is purchased it comes in a box and some assembly is required at home.

George Nelson is often referred to as the Father of Modernism. He was a forward thinking architect and designer who looked for innovative ways to do old things brand new. Indeed the Nelson swag leg desk is perfectly adaptable to today’s home furnishing needs. In fact, a grommet area has been added to the back of the desk to control cords for the laptop, smart phones, and other electronics. This interesting and fun desk comes at a price that avid furniture collectors can appreciate but it is well worth it for those who want a museum quality piece in their homes.

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